When Schools and Families Do Not Agree

Productive, shared decision-making among families and school team members is an important factor in ensuring a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) for each child with a disability. Relationships and trust are the core of family-school partnership; differences in perspective and opinion among parents and professionals, within and beyond the evaluation and IEP process, are expected and valuable when productively managed.

School/Family Partnership for FAPEThe Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) recognizes that shared decision-making can be challenging, and there are times when family and school team members do not reach agreement or when a student’s entitlements may come under question.

The RIDE Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports (OSCAS) offers several state level options to assist families and schools in resolving issues that remain even after those issues are reconsidered through local, informal dispute resolution.

If you need assistance with the option that is right for you, you are welcome to contact the:

OSCAS Special Education Call Center at 401-222-8999
El Centro de Llamadas al 401-222-8999

RI Special Education Procedural Safeguards

Resolution OptionsFederal and state laws and regulations* require that schools provide the parents of a child with a disability a full explanation of their rights in the special education process. 

*Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the RI Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education Regulations Governing the Education of Children with Disabilities.

These rights are described in writing in the RI Special Education Procedural Safeguards Notice, Model Form

Dispute Resolution Options and Resources Brochure

Available to families and school personnel in several languages, this brochure explains the options for resolving special education issues. Please take a moment to review this brochure before filing a state level complaint or taking a due process step, to ensure that you use the tool best suited to address your special education issue.


Special Education State Mediation

State mediation is an impartial process offered at no cost to parents and schools for resolving disagreements about a child’s special education evaluation, eligibility, or services. Participation is completely voluntary. The mediator is an impartial facilitator appointed by the RIDE Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports who is qualified to assist the parties in reaching an agreement by facilitating communication; identifying issues; helping the participants reach understanding, find common ground and consider solutions; and assisting the parent and school department in resolving the issues. The mediator does not take sides" and does not make a decision on behalf of the parties.

Either parents/guardians or a school department may request state mediation via telephone request by calling the OSCAS Call Center at (401) 222-8999.

Read our informational pamphlet about state mediation in special education matters [PDF, 434KB].


Special Education State Complaint

A special education state complaint is a signed, written statement alleging that a local school department or other public education agency violated a requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education Regulations Governing the Education of Children with Disabilities. A state complaint must be submitted in writing and must include certain required elements as described in RIDEs complaint procedures. The RIDE will carry out an investigation and issue a written Findings Letter within 60 calendar days of receiving the complaint (unless an extension is granted). If the school department or other public educational agency is determined to be in violation of special education laws regulations, it will be required to develop and implement a corrective action plan. The conclusions and corrective actions stipulated in the Findings Letter represent the final decision of the Rhode Island Department of Education.

Before deciding whether a written state complaint is the best option for addressing your special education issue, it is recommended that you review the Options and Resources brochure as well as the RIDE Special Education State Complaint Procedures here:

To assist you in including all required elements of a written complaint, a model form is available by clicking here:


Special Education Impartial Due Process Hearing

An impartial due process hearing is an administrative special education proceeding in which the parent and school department present their respective cases to an impartial hearing officer, who makes a decision for the parties, rendered in writing. The hearing officers decision is final unless appealed through civil action in U.S. district court or a state court of competent jurisdiction.

Before deciding whether an impartial due process hearing is the best option for addressing your special education issue, it is recommended that you review the Options and Resources brochure as well as the RIDE Special Education Impartial Due Process Hearing Procedures here:

A request for a special education impartial due process hearing must be submitted in writing to the Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports and contain all required elements. To assist you in filing a request for a special education impartial due process hearing, the RIDE provides the following model form that includes the required elements as well as other helpful information.

To access the model form for requesting an impartial due process hearing click here:

El formulario que figura adelante le ayudar a solicitar una audiencia de debido proceso imparcial en materia de educación especial. Éste muestra ciertas informaciones necesarias y tiles para tramitar su solicitud. Para asegurarse de que esté empleando el procedimiento correcto para resolver su problema, por favor examine el folleto sobre opciones y recursos que aparece en esta página web. Para presentar su solicitud, por favor descargue el formulario para solicitud de audiencia de debido proceso, llénelo y por correo a la dirección que aparece al final del formulario. Si tiene alguna pregunta sobre las opciones con las que cuenta para resolver conflictos, por favor llámenos al (401) 222-8999. Formulario modelo para solicitar una audencia de debido proceso imparcial en materia de educacin especial 

O formulrio seguinte ajuda-o/a a solicitar uma audincia de processo imparcial do ensino especial. Mostra todos os dados necessrios e teis no processamento da sua solicitao. Para se certificar que est a utilizar o processo adequado para resolver a sua questo, consulte o documento Opes e Recursos neste website. Para submeter a sua solicitao, faa o download deste formulrio, preencha-o e envie o Pedido de Processo de Audincia para o endereo abaixo. Se necessitar de qualquer esclarecimento sobre as suas opes de resoluo de disputa, contate-nos atravs do telefone (401) 222-8999.

Formulrio modelo para Solicitao de Audincia de Processo Imparcial do Ensino Especial


Search Complaints, Hearings & Mediation Reports

RIDE provides information to the public regarding Dispute Resolution options exercised in each school district by year.

Search the DISPUTE RESOLUTION Database

Related Resources

Agencias Comunitarias

Parent organizations are available to assist parents with questions and build their knowledge about Special Education and related services. Parents who know their rights can effectively partner with the school team in making educational decisions about their child. The lead parent organizations in Rhode Island are the

Questions Regarding Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related Education Civil Rights Matters